Abstract

In July 1919, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously quit a low-level advertising job in New York City to return home to St. Paul, Minnesota. It was his last-ditch effort to rewrite a manuscript that had been rejected twice by Charles Scribner’s Sons. He hoped a publishing contract might finally convince Zelda Sayre to marry him. That novel, This Side of Paradise, established him as the voice of his generation and ushered in the Jazz Age. Although scholars are well-aware of the major changes Fitzgerald made to the manuscript that summer, they largely ignore the role that a childhood friend played in the revision that became Paradise. This article explores the author’s relationship with St. Paul native Katharine Tighe, who worked closely with Fitzgerald on this third revision before its final submission to Maxwell Perkins. Although James L. W. West III catalogues her input in the 1995 Cambridge edition of the novel, little biographical information about Tighe has surfaced. This article demonstrates why she was the right person to serve as a “midwife” to the manuscript. Tighe understood the St. Paul, Eastern prep-school, and college milieux of the story. She had her own Great War experience, treating the wounded after completing Vassar College’s training camp for nurses. Like Fitzgerald, the Great Influenza epidemic claimed the life of one of her friends. Although it is doubtful Tighe and Fitzgerald saw each other after 1922, the pair corresponded as late as 1940, just months before Fitzgerald’s death. Although biographers Henry Dan Piper and Andrew Turnbull interviewed her during their research, Katharine Tighe Fessenden represents a rare unexplored aspect of Fitzgerald’s otherwise closely examined life.

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